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I tried TCL’s new Dolby Atmos soundbar, and Sonos should be worried

Is it just me, or is the premium Dolby Atmos soundbar category exploding?

last week IFA 2022 A true showcase for premium, fully functional soundbars in Berlin, Philips has introduced a powerful and fully functional soundbar. Stylish Fidelio FB1 ($899/€899/$1,316) and Sennheiser Ambeo Plus ($1,499 / £1,297), the compact version of the regular Ambeo Product (now upgraded to Ambeo Max).

Based on specs alone – and my subjective impressions after the IFA demo – both models are clear contenders for our list best sound bar beside the mighty Sonos ArcBut they’re not the only premium soundbars to debut in Berlin. TCL also showed off its X937U, a 7.1.4 soundbar system that really looks poised to steal some of the Arc’s limelight.

At around $800/€800/AU$1,200, or $100 less than the Sonos Arc, the X937U is a very capable soundbar package. The 7.1.4 channel system features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing, and supports Dolby Vision pass-through on its 3 HDMI ports, including one with eARC.

In addition to HDMI-connecting a TV, streaming box or disc player to the X937U, listeners can wirelessly stream high-resolution music to them using the DTS Play-Fi protocol. It also supports streaming via AirPlay, Chromecast and Spotify Connect, and works with Alexa and OK Google voice commands.

Unlike the Sonos Arc, the X937U comes bundled with wireless surround sound (with front and upward speakers for Atmos) and a wireless subwoofer. Three 2-way speakers are used for the left, center, and right channels, and full-range speaker drivers are used for the remaining channels, with a total power specified at 1,020 watts.

What you see on the face of the X937U soundbar is an attractive grey fabric wrap (TCL says it uses an “eco-friendly” material), which also works well for surround speakers. What you don’t see is the Ray-Danz acoustic lens design, which works with speaker drivers to expand the sound field and create a more immersive effect without the need for digital processing.

Sitting down to listen to the X937U, I was impressed with the powerful, dynamic sound the system was able to deliver in TCL’s large but not overcrowded IFA booth. With this soundbar, getting enough loudness will not be a problem! While a high-ceilinged showroom isn’t the best environment to showcase Dolby Atmos, I still experienced some level of immersion and certainly heard the surround effects of surround sound.

TCL’s 7.1.4 soundbar system includes a wireless subwoofer and surround speakers (not shown). (Image credit: Future)

Premium soundbars: the (sound) wave of the future

Two days before IFA’s encounter with TCL’s X937U soundbar, I watched a demo of Philips’ new Fidelio FB1, and the company shared data suggesting that high-end models are the fastest-growing segment of the soundbar market — even comparable to cheap The entry-level products are comparable to the ever-popular products. As a result of the demo, viewers crave not only better sound from their TV, but fully immersive 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos sound.

Systems like the TCL X937U, Philips FB1, and Sennheiser Ambeo Plus introduced at IFA are all well-designed premium products that deliver 7.1.4 sound in a compact form factor—in Sennheiser’s case, from a fully integrated soundbar.

Philips and TCL models also feature DTS Play-Fi, a wireless streaming technology similar to AirPlay and Chromecast that differentiates itself by supporting high-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192kHz.Not only that, but Play-Fi also supports multi-channel streaming and was announced at IFA DTS parent company Xperi Play-Fi’s update expands its capabilities to 7.1.4 immersive sound.

Between these three new products alone, the Sonos Arc will soon have a tough competition in the high-end soundbar space. TCL’s new system looks particularly promising because it uses a full array of physical speakers rather than Atmos virtualization processing (which both the Sonos Arc and Sennheiser Ambeo Plus use) to deliver 7.1.4 sound. At $800, it’s far more affordable than most other premium 7.1.4 Atmos sound packs.

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